48 hours in Copenhagen

In the summer the Danish capital transforms itself into a party city that's also the ultimate in urban cool.


WHY GO?

WHY GO?

Copenhagen hopes to capitalise on media attention from the nuptials of Crown Prince Frederick to Aussie Mary Donaldson last week. But quite apart from this, visitors will have plenty to occupy them during the four-month fiesta that is the Danish capital in summer. One of the world's largest jazz festivals runs from 2 to 11 July, and the chintzy, cheerful Tivoli amusement park is open until 19 September (and again over Christmas). When you're not surveying the low-key style of young Danes from a canal-side café, you can shop for the high-quality homewares that have made Denmark a byword for design. Indeed, this remains a distinctive country where they haven't yet converted to the Euro.

BEAM DOWN

Airy, pristine and adorned with designer furniture, Kastrup airport is almost a destination in itself. Competition is fierce for both the business and leisure markets from London, so shop around. From London Gatwick, Maersk Air (020 7333 0066, www.maersk-air.com) offers a weekend return fare in May for just £91. EasyJet (0871 750 0100, www.easyjet.com) flies twice a day from Stansted, and once a day from Newcastle: return flights in May start at about £72. British Airways has several flights a day from Heathrow; fares start from around £98 (0870 850 9 850, www.ba.com). SAS (0870 60 727 727, www.scandinavian.net) is currently offering flights from Heathrow for £99.60. From Kastrup airport, trains whisk you into the central station for a one-way fare of Dkr24 (£2.40).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Most of the major sights, shops and museums are on the city's original "island", Slotsholmen. Radhuspladsen, the vast, bustling location of the neo-gothic town hall, is a good starting point for explorations on foot. To the west of the square is Tivoli, with its Hans Christian Andersen-styled rides and modern scream-inducers, and Vesterbro, the up-and-coming former red-light district. Near the square's eastern edge, at 1 Bernstorffsgade is the tourist office (00 45 70 22 24 42, www.woco.dk). It is open May-June, Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm; July-August, Monday to Saturday 9am-8pm; winter Monday to Friday 10am-4.30pm, Saturday 9am-2pm; closed Sunday.

TAKE A VIEW

Although not one for the vertigo-prone, the barmy external spiral staircase of Vor Frelsers Kirke, or Church of Our Saviour, at Sankt Annaegade (00 45 32 57 27 98, www.vorfrelserskirke.dk) is rewarding to climb. From the top, you get a real sense of the city's unobtrusive skyline. A trip up the tower costs Dkr20 (£1.80). It is open April-August, Monday to Saturday 11am-4.30pm, Sundays from 12pm; closed November to March. Alternatively, visit Radhustarnet (the City Hall tower) in Radhuspladsen (00 45 33 66 25 82) for panoramic views over Tivoli and the city. It is open from June to September, Monday to Friday at 10am, 12pm and 2pm, and Saturday 12pm; October to May 12pm; admission is Dkr20 (£1.80).

TAKE A HIKE

From Radhuspladsen, head along Stroget; just outside the interiors store Illum Bolighus at Hojbro Plads is the Three Cranes fountain. Head east to the grand square Kongens Nytorv and on to Nyhavn, a good place to savour a beer at one of the many cafés. Returning to Slotsholmen, turn left at the Three Cranes for the Danish parliament and admire the bronze spire of the Borsen. Go through Christiansborg, with its impressive parade ground, then walk along Christians Brygge towards the harbour to the Black Diamond, the sleek new addition to the Royal Library.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Dotted on street corners around the city, you'll find stalls selling the Danes' favourite fast food: hot dogs. Join the queue to pick up a piping-hot sausage, bun and assorted condiments for around Dkr25 (£2.25).

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

Unleash your inner Viking at the National Museum (Nationalmuseet), at Ny Vestergade 10 (00 45 33 13 44 11, www.natmus.dk). It features family-friendly displays ranging from Denmark's Stone Age through the Viking period to the recent past. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm. Admission is Dkr25 (£2.25); free on Wednesday. Art lovers should note that a large part of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the superb gallery of sculpture and painting at Dantes Plads 7 (00 45 33 41 81 41, www.glyptoteket.dk), is closed for renovation until June 2006. However the Antique and Egyptian galleries remain open. Admission is from 10am-4pm, Tuesday to Sunday; entrance is DKr20 (£1.80), free on Wednesday and Sunday.

AN APERITIF

In the early evening, the fashionable set heads to Zoo Bar at Kronprinsessegade 7 (0045 3315 6869). It is open daily until 11pm, except for Friday and Saturday, when DJs keep the party going until 2am.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

As can be expected for a chilly northern country, the Danish diet revolves around meat (usually pork) and potatoes. In the hipppified area of Christiania (now ostensibly free of drug pushers), Spiseloppen at Badmandsstraede 43 (00 45 32 57 95 58) is a former vegetarian restaurant that serves excellent organic meat dishes. It also has a very good wine list.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

Frederiks Kirke, commonly known as Marmorkirken, at Frederiksgade 4 (0045 3315 0144; www.marmorkirken.dk) is a fine Lutheran Renaissance structure across the road from Amalienborg palace. Services are at 10.30am. If you simply want to look inside, the church is open Monday -Thursday 10am-5pm. Wednesday until 6pm, Friday to Sunday and public holidays noon-5pm. For views of Copenhagen, Oresund and the southern Swedish coast you can make the trek up to the tower; this costs Dkr20 (£1.80).

OUT TO BRUNCH

No doubt about it: northern Europeans love flesh first thing in the morning. Many bars offer smorrebrod with schnapps from around Dkr80 (£7.20), but for a dazzling array of traditional toppings, go to Peder Oxe's Restaurant at Grabredretorv 11 (00 45 33 11 11 93). Open from 11.30am-6pm, Dkr 118 (£11) will get you three pieces of bread and a choice of toppings; its speciality is herring in a creamy dill dressing on rye.

A WALK IN THE PARK

Walk off that stodgy repast in Frederiksberg park (00 45 38 11 44 32, www.frederiksberg.dk), in the genteel north-western suburb of the same name. The extensive gardens in the grounds of the 17th-century Frederiksberg palace include a Chinese gazebo and canals, and you can hire rowboats in the summer.

TAKE A RIDE

One of the great joys of the city is its mercifully traffic-free streets - thanks in no small part to a very cyclist-friendly attitude. From April to September, you can hire a City Bike (00 45 35 43 01 10, www.bycyklen.dk). You will find these slightly clunky but serviceable contraptions at any one of 100 bike racks around the city. Just pop Dkr20 (£1.80) in the slot and join the fray; you get your money back when you return the bike to a rack. It doesn't pay to be too adventurous though - cycle outside the centre of the city and you will be liable to a Dkr1,000 (£90) fine.

WRITE A POSTCARD

Most visitors can't resist buying a picture of The Little Mermaid, a bronze statue on a boulder at Langelinie, next to the former fortress of Kastellet. Not everyone appreciates Hans Christian Andersen's heroine, however. Since her creation in 1913, the city's mascot has survived decapitations and amputation.

THE ICING ON THE CAKE

Most Danes seem able to consume prodigious amounts of alcohol while remaining the model of conviviality, and Copenhagen's thriving café and club scene is a great way to get friendly with the locals. Bang & Jensen (00 45 33 25 53 18) at Istedgade 130 in Osterbro is a small, cheery café that quickly gets crammed with the fashionable late-twenties set. Later, party into the night at Vega at Enghavevej 40 (00 45 33 25 70 11; www.vega.dk), a three-storey bar/disco/live music complex with designer fittings and beautiful people.

CHECK IN

For a sleek, modern interior, DGI-byen is a good bet. This very Scandinavian hotel in trendy Vesterbro at Tietgensgade 65 (00 45 33 29 80 50, www.dgi-byen.dk) has a state-of-the-art indoor pool and offers doubles in the high season from Dkr1,495 (£134) including breakfast (from DK650/60 in low season).

A luxury option is 71 Nyhavn (00 45 33 43 62 00, www.71nyhavnhotelcopenhagen.dk), two tastefully converted former spice warehouses at the end of the canal of the same name. The welcome is warm, the restaurant outstanding and a number of lively cafés are right on your doorstep. During the week, a standard double room costs Dkr1,650 (£148); at the weekend, this drops to Dkr1,290 (£116); the superb buffet breakfast costs Dkr125 (£11) per person (this is included in the room rate at the weekend).

In the posh suburb of Charlottenlund, 7km north-east of the city, is Skovshoved, a pretty boutique hotel at Strandvejen 267 (00 45 39 64 00 28, www.skovshovedhotel.dk). A smart double room with pale, restful decor costs Dkr1,300 (£118), or Dkr1,500 (£136) with sea views. Breakfast is DK98 (£9).

In terms of budget accommodation, try Cab Inn Scandinavia in the tranquil Lakes area at Vodroffsvej 55 (00 45 35 36 11 11; www.cabinn.com). It is one of three branches in the city, all of which offer the same clean, basic, if cramped, double rooms from Dkr630 (£56). Breakfast is DK50 (4.50)

WINDOW SHOPPING

The top interiors stores Illum Bolighus, Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen are all at the Kongens Nytorv end of Stroget. You could spend hours comparing prices on cutlery sets or picking up keenly priced flat-pack designer lampshades, but those on a weekend break should be quick - almost all shops in Copenhagen are closed on Sunday, and most close around 5pm on a Saturday.

Designer Zoo at Vesterbrogade 137 (00 45 33 24 73 62) sells quirky works by emerging designers such as Karsten Lauritsen (furniture), Mette Saabye (jewellery), Bettina Schori (glass and metal), and Charlotte ÿstergaard (clothes). The doors shut at 3pm on Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. For cutting-edge fashion favoured by supermodels and the like, head for Kronprinsengade just off Hojbro Plads. Flying A at number 5 (00 45 33 33 90 63) has super-trendy and unusual labels on the ground floor and secondhand designer wear on the upper storey.

Blagardsgade, a café-lined pedestrian street in Norrebro, has some excellent vintage clothing shops.

TASTE OF THE CITY

An upmarket favourite is Konrad (00 45 33 93 29 29, www.restaurantkonrad.dk) at Pilestraede 12-14, which serves elegant Scandinavian cuisine with a French twist. A three-course dinner costs in the region of Dkr400 (£36).

For chic minimalism make for Soren K (00 45 33 47 49 49, www.soerenk.dk) in the Black Diamond extension of the Royal Library where you can expect to pay about Dkr175 (£15.75) for a two-course lunch and DKr350 (£31.50) for a three-course dinner. Seafood is a speciality here.

Fish, of course, features strongly in the Danish diet. Krogs Fiskerestaurant at Gammel Strand 38 (00 45 33 15 89 15) is an outstanding fish restaurant if you're in the mood to splurge; meals cost upwards of Dkr400 (£36) a head.

For lighter fare, head for the swanky microbrewery Norrebro Bryghus (00 45 35 30 05 30; www.noerrebrobryghus.dk) at Ryesgade 3. It offers a reasonably priced modern European menu and a fine range of house beers.

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